Colón Speaks Burqueño
Candidate expresses hope, displays readiness
The former chairman of the state's Democratic Party—who ran as part of the last Democratic gubernatorial ticket in 2010—Colón has been deeply involved with the University of New Mexico Alumni Association and other proactive community groups including the Albuquerque Community Foundation. Colón is also the chairman of the Board of Directors at Popejoy Hall.
Given the wealth of political and community cultural experience that has come to define Colón's professional life, it's no wonder the dude has tossed his hat into the ring as a potential replacement for the current mayor, the center-right genius behind the ART project, hizzoner Mayor Berry.
As the race to succeed Berry gathers steam, candidates for the esteemed and influential job are busy jockeying for position, gathering signatures, filing expense reports and letting potential constituents get to know who they are and what they stand for.
Weekly Alibi indulged this age-old political process when Colón stopped by our offices for a chat. It was early on Monday morning when the candidate and one of his main advisors appeared in our Downtown office for a video-taped interview. August March gulped down two cups of coffee and a frozen burrito in preparation for the event. The conversation that followed was collegial, yet intense and wide-ranging, too, as Colón spoke about his hopes for the city and a path forward.
Here is the beginning of that talk; it is our sincere hope that your optimistic curiosity will grow, dear reader, as you consume the introductory portion of an 45-minute discourse on the City of Albuquerque and its future. The entire interview is available to view in real time.
Weekly Alibi: For readers of Weekly Alibi who may not be familiar with you or your candidacy, tell us a little about who you are and what you represent.
Brian S. Colón: I love this community and I love this state. Albuquerque is the community where I raised my son, who is now 19 years old. My wonderful bride and I have been married for 21 years. This is the place where I will die. Albuquerque is a phenomenal place with incredible history and incredible people. For me, this race is about the prior political experience I have and leveraging it with the community experience I have. For me, you can't really do politics if you don't do community.
You've been involved with several community projects recently as well, what are they?
I am very humble to say we've spent a lot of time over the last six years [after the last gubernatorial election]—really the last 15 years—working in the community. Whether it's when we helped found the board for Popejoy Hall—its School Time Series now serves over 59,000 students per year in Title I programs all over our community; when we started that board we only had 5,800 kids going to Popejoy Hall [per year]—or my work for the alumni association or most recently as a trustee for the Albuquerque Community Foundation … that public service gives me a real sense of what the texture of our community is, not just in one part of the community, but our entire community. That's why I am inspired to run for mayor. It's been a great honor to get to know Albuquerque and its people.
It sounds like community involvement is going to be a keystone for your campaign. In line with that, I'd like to ask you some questions that have to do with the Albuquerque community. They are also issues within the community. Let's start by talking about urban development in Albuquerque. The big development issue that people are talking about now is ART. What side of the ART argument do you fall on?
I've always been a big proponent of public transportation. Generally speaking I'm always going to fall on the side of public transport. However, I think what we learned here is—the best thing that's going to come out of ART is—hopefully no other elected official will undertake a massive project without truly engaging the community in a conversation about that project [before you roll it out].
The issue here is that there was a lack of engagement … For me, I was thinking at least that we will be able to take a deep breath when I take office—if I'm given the honor and pleasure to serve as mayor. I'm optimistic that the next day we're going to take a deep breath, stop the project where it's at and have a conversation about what we think is working and what isn't.
I gotta tell you though, August, I'm tired of people talking about us as being at the bottom of the good list and the top of the bad. The one thing I am going to do as mayor is change that conversation. I am going to celebrate our successes.
I am going to tell the stories of the incredible people we have in this community, the incredible opportunities and potential we have. And the first way you can change things is by changing the way you talk about things.
So, do we need to change the way we’re talking about ART? One of your opponents said that if it’s an unsuccessful project, he’s going to have it taken apart and put away. What do you think of that kind of strategy? Is that something we can just have dismantled, after...
After $129 million dollars in taxpayer money. I’m not convinced. What I think you need to do is have a creative conversation. August, look, to say we’re going to rip up and throw away $129 million of capital outlay, that’s insanity. Instead what you do is what I love doing: setting a table for a conversation. For me it’s about setting a table to have a conversation with stake holders about how this project may not have been our first choice, may not have been our best choice, but it’s a choice that we made ... How do we go forward from here and make it successful?